8 Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Mar 19, 2021

So, you’ve had professional and personal achievements, you are recognized by many because they consider that you are capable and that you have the necessary skills to fulfill your function, however, you don’t feel sure that everything they say about you is true. You probably think that your current position might be too big for you or you don’t meet 100% of the requirements. If any of these thoughts have crossed your mind, you have experienced Impostor Syndrome.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

The Harvard Business Review defines this syndrome as a set of feelings of inadequacy in people that persist despite obvious success. A person with this condition has chronic self-doubt and a sense of fraud that overshadows any achievement or recognition, even if there is real evidence to the contrary. It should be noted that it is not related to low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence, but rather to the perfectionism it seeks to achieve.

It should not sound unfamiliar, since you could belong to the group of people who have experienced it, since according to the study “The Impostor Phenomenon,” published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of the population has been through it at some point in their life.

Since impostor syndrome stems from our perception, our feelings and opinions become subjective. The facts that lead us to believe we are a “fake” are not supported by real evidence (quite the opposite). You might be able to recognize the impostor in yourself if you consider that your achievements or the recognition you receive from others, have to do with mere luck, extra hard work, lots of studies, but not with the capacity that you have as an individual to have achieve them and that you also deserve them.

Another relevant fact is that according to Eva Rimbau, professor of Economics and Business Studies at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, people are constantly aware of our own shortcomings, without seeing those of others, on the contrary, we use them as a point of comparison against us.

Why it happens

So, why does impostor syndrome arise? In reality, there is no correct answer, as it depends on many factors. Personality traits, anxiety, emotional instability can be determining factors for some people, while childhood memories can trigger it for others, such as memories of when you felt that your grades weren’t good enough and that you had to try harder. Or social factors that resulted in self-isolation.

Types of impostors

Valery Young in her book, “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women,” defines 5 different types of impostors based on the most common patterns of people who suffer from it:

  1. The perfectionists, who set unrealistically high expectations. Valery points out that these individuals will feel like a failure even if they reach 99% of their goals, questioning themselves. Consider asking yourself the following questions to see if you are one of them: Do you usually micro-manage? Is it hard for you to delegate? Are you often disappointed with the results achieved by yourself, your team and/or the people around you? This type is rarely satisfied, it is neither productive nor healthy, and can be outright exhausting.
  2. The super man/ woman, are people who strive to work very hard to prove that they are not an imposter. They have the need to succeed in all aspects of their life, work, family, friends, etc. This can affect their mental health and their relationships with others due to the overload of work they take on.
  3. Experts need to know as much information as possible and fear being exposed as inexperienced, because they believe that they will never know how to do enough. For example, in the case of a job application, they will avoid doing it, if they don’t meet 100% of the requirements.
  4. The Soloists are those people who find it difficult to ask for help, since doing so could make them think of themselves as a fraud.
  5. Finally, the natural genius is used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in extra effort into a task, they feel that it is proof that they are not the geniuses they consider themselves to be.

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is internal negative feedback. The ultimate tool to combat the syndrome is emotional intelligence, which is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and understand and influence those of others. It depends on empathy, motivation, self-awareness and self-control that will allow us to interpret, analyze, and understand both the origin and the particularities of the negative feedback we receive and act on it once we are aware.

The purpose is to break these cycles of negative thoughts and for this I suggest:

  1. Work on your emotional intelligence and recognize these negative thoughts. Self-awareness is the first step. Identify when your thoughts arise and what feelings they provoke in you.
  2. Once you are aware, reprogram your thoughts. “It’s normal not to know everything” “I deserve it because I tried hard for it” are some examples.
  3. If it works for you, talk about it, you will probably find people who identify with you and can understand the pattern from the outside.
  4. Consider the contexts. There are will always be moments when don’t feel completely confident, they will always happen. So, analyze them and keep them in that time and space, it does not mean that you always have to doubt yourself.
  5. See them as learning opportunities and use them for future occasions when you feel similarly.
  6. Be kind to yourself.
  7. Keep a record of your achievements (or a “Hype File”), and keep track of your accomplishments, your studies and experiences. Everything that allows you to reaffirm who you are and how far you’ve come. When you start feeling the impostor coming on, you can take out your notes and remind yourself of all the value you bring to the table.
  8. Seek support, since breaking with these thoughts and behavior patterns are not easy, so you might want to explore working with an expert who can help you.

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